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Attorney General Files Defense in Case Against Labour Export Firms

In August, city lawyer Ivan Bwowe sued the Attorney General and 143 labour export firms under their umbrella Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies seeking among others a declaration that the actions of the Gender Ministry by authorizing their work is illegal.
25 Oct 2019 19:43
City Lawyer Ivan Bwowe sued the Attorney General in the case challenging the government's decision to acknowledge the work of labour export firms
The Attorney General has commenced defense in the case in which the government was sued for authorizing the operations of 143 labor export firms.

In August, city lawyer Ivan Bwowe sued the Attorney General and 143 labour export firms under their umbrella Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies seeking among others a declaration that the actions of the Gender Ministry by authorizing their work is illegal. 

In his application before the High Court Civil Division, Bwowe argued that the externalization of labour by the companies has ingredients of human trafficking which is contrary to the Human Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009. 

However, according to the court documents, part of the Attorney General’s defense seen by URN is asking court to dismiss the application on grounds that it is incompetent.

The defense is laid out in an affidavit sworn in by Hillary Taremwa, a Senior Labour Officer at the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development. 

Taremwa states that whereas it is true that some Ugandan Migrant workers have been exploited while abroad, there are actions by the Gender Minister that have been put in place to ensure that the same does not continue to occur. 

“The Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development continuously revises the established mechanisms for dealing with illicit labor export and protecting the rights of migrant workers”, reads the document in part. 

The document adds that one of the mechanisms is engaging the government of the States where the labor is exported to ensure that the rights of Ugandan Migrant workers are protected.  

In June, the Gender Ministry signed a five-year agreement with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates’ resources and Emiratization Ministry with an aim of formalizing the export of Ugandan labourers in the said countries.   

However, this same agreement is being challenged in Bwowe’s application because he contends that the Gender Ministry has no mandate to sign agreements with foreign governments without the advice of the Solicitor General. 

Article 119 of Uganda’s constitution gives the Attorney General the mandate to give his opinion or advice in respect to all agreements and conventions to which the government is a party. Also, the powers to clear contracts are exercised by the Solicitor General in line with section 29 of the interpretation Act which allows him or her to perform the functions of the Attorney General.

This now implies that any agreement entered with a foreign country without the Solicitor General’s advice is unconstitutional and therefore illegal. 

The Civil Division of High Court Judge Andrew Bashaija will start hearing this case on January 29th, 2020.